Closing the hospital labs? We’ll notify you about that

An upbeat interview in Friday’s Times-Journal with Paul Jenkins, the new executive director of the St. Thomas-Elgin General Hospital Foundation.
He is the individual who assumes the position previously held by Allan Weatherall who, like Malcolm Hopkins, didn’t fit into the long-term game plan of hospital CEO Paul Collins.
Well Paul’s fundraising endeavors may become that much more difficult based on information forwarded to City Scope on Friday.
As we understand matters, the downsizing/outsourcing may very well continue with pathology labs now housed at the hospital possibly about to be shuttered at the end of the year.
We don’t have a handle on number of people who might be impacted, although some of the work undertaken could be moved, possibly to Woodstock General Hospital. The remainder of the work would likely be assumed by a London facility.
A bit of a complication here though. The St. Thomas jobs are unionized whereas the Woodstock workplace is non-union so some negotiating would be in order.
The union – which has to be given five months notice – was apparently notified of this situation on July 11. That would mean the final day of employment in the STEGH labs would be on or around Dec. 11.

We contacted the South West Local Health Integration Network to determine whether the lab closures are, in fact, a reality and was the decision initiated at their end.
“I’m not aware of any changes to their pathology lab services,” Mark Brintnell, senior director of performance and accountability, told City Scope Friday afternoon.
So, is this a local decision at the hospital level?
“I can’t comment on that,” he continued. “All I can say is from a LHIN perspective we’re not aware of any changes to those services.”
Is this a cost-saving centralization of services on the part of the South West LHIN?
“The LHIN isn’t currently undertaking any work as it relates to centralization of lab services. Anything is a possibility, I guess. We have a responsibility and a mandate as a LHIN to make sure that programs and services delivered by hospitals and community providers are the most efficient and effective to meet the service needs.”
In a conversation Friday, hospital VP Karen Davies insists the hospital has “no plans to do anything different with our services in pathology.”
However Davies did confirm “we had communication with the union” in July.
The nature of that communication, she added, was “if we were ever going to change anything in the future around our labs, you would have to give them notice. And that could be for the minimum, which is five months, it could be in the future and that would be given. And what I’m telling you now is there are no plans.”
Why would you go through the process of notifying the union if you have no plans to close the labs?
“It’s part of our exploration, that was our process,” Davies advised.
Reading into that, there are some hospital employees who likely should be worried.

Will the return to a regular meeting schedule in the council chamber at city hall bring an end to the tacky sartorial statement presented by Ald. Tom Johnston?
For the two summer meetings, Johnston has deemed it appropriate to wear golf shirts emblazoned with the logo of his new employer.
Nothing wrong with the shirts, mind you. But when undertaking city business and being paid to do so by ratepayers, the wearing of such blatant promotional material at a televised council meeting displays a complete lack of class on the part of Johnston.
Should the practice continue into the fall term, a strong word of advice from Mayor Heather Jackson would not be out of order.

Our MP Joe Preston is playing coy on whether he will seek re-election.
In a conversation this week with T-J reporter Ben Forrest, Joe advised he will announce his intentions next June 28, which will mark his 10th anniversary as an MP.
Should be decide to turn his attention elsewhere, that would leave plenty of time to begin the grooming process for the 2015 federal vote, scheduled at this point for Oct. 19.
How about an individual like Karen Vecchio, Joe’s executive assistant who we note has garnered considerable public exposure of late.

That T-J interview, by the way, generated several derisive comments from readers who are obviously not in the Preston camp.
Typical was this from ‘opinion8ted’.
“It has become blatantly obvious that Joe is confused as to who actually signs his pay cheque. No Joe, it isn’t Stephen Harper or Scotiabank or Shell that sign your pay cheque, it’s that young couple working two or three jobs, struggling to get by, or our youth that have given up looking for work that doesn’t exist, or that middle-aged factory worker who watched as their plant closed and moved off shore.”

“I think putting MPs out in their ridings where they have to answer to the people who elected them – not the media, but to the people who elected them and answer those questions – is a far harder job than sending me to Ottawa.”
MP Joe Preston in a T-J interview on whether he would seek re-election in 2015.

City Scope appears Saturday in the Times-Journal. Questions and comments may be emailed to

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